The country’s largest endemic mammal gets the spotlight this month as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) joins hands with the local governments of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro in celebrating October as Tamaraw Month.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said that the celebration of Tamaraw Month is provided under Presidential Proclamation No. 273 of 2002, which designates October of every year as “Special Month for the Conservation and Protection of the Tamaraw in Mindoro.”

“The tamaraw is one of the country’s important flagship species and sadly, it is on the verge of extinction. The proclamation thus enjoins all Filipinos, not only Mindoreños, to protect and conserve the tamaraw as our legacy to future generations,” he said.

This year’s theme, “Tamaraw ng Mindoro: Pagdami mo’y inaasam ko, gubat na tahanan mo’y pangangalagaan ko!” reflects the commitment to conserve the endangered dwarf water buffalo, which has been classified as critically endangered in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Paje added that the theme also reflects the government’s National Greening Program’s objective on resource conservation and protection. “We can only protect the tamaraw if we also protect its habitat,” he said, stressing that the tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) can only be found in the forests and grasslands of Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park in Mindoro Oriental, and in Mts. Aruyan and Calavite in Mindoro Occidental.

Month-long activities slated in celebration of tamaraw month focus on a Mindoro island-wide intensive information campaign, including a video showing in government offices, local cable television, and shipping lines plying the Mindoro route. Students and science teachers will also undergo separate day camps at the Tamaraw Gene Pool (TGP) Farm in Rizal, Occidental Mindoro.

The non-government Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (MBCFI) will also sponsor a teachers’ training on biodiversity, and a seminar on basic ecology and natural resource governance.

The tamaraw is a much smaller version of the carabao, and is distinguished by its V-shaped, backward-pointing stout horns which it shakes to signal aggression. Tamaraw population, estimated at 10,000 in the 1960s, has dwindled to the current count of 274, with the decline largely attributed to diseases, illegal poaching, and habitat loss.

The government established the Tamaraw Conservation Program (TCP) to address the causes of decline in tamaraw population. Its component in captive breeding allowed for the establishment of the TGP farm in 1982. Since then, however, all 20 tamaraws originally captured for the gene pool have died. Only Kalibasib (short for Kalikasan Bagong Sibol), which is also the first and only tamaraw born in captivity, remains as the farm’s lone occupant.

But with confirmed reports of breeding in the wild, the TCP has focused on its other components on management of wild population and habitat, and conducting information and education campaigns.